On January 12th…

January 12 (or thereabouts), 1903: Sir James Saunders diagnosed Godfrey Emsworth’s disease as pseudo-leprosy. [BLAN]

Illustration by Howard K. Elcock for The Strand Magazine (November, 1926)

I was finishing this little analysis of the case when the door was opened and the austere figure of the great dermatologist was ushered in. But for once his sphinx-like features had relaxed and there was a warm humanity in his eyes. He strode up to Colonel Emsworth and shook him by the hand.

‘It is often my lot to bring ill-tidings, and seldom good,’ said he. ‘This occasion is the more welcome. It is not leprosy.’

‘What?’

‘A well-marked case of pseudo-leprosy or ichthyosis, a scale-like affection of the skin, unsightly, obstinate, but possibly curable, and certainly non-infective. Yes, Mr Holmes, the coincidence is a remarkable one. But is it coincidence? Are there not subtle forces at work of which we know little? Are we assured that the apprehension, from which this young man has no doubt suffered terribly since his exposure to its contagion, may not produce a physical effect which simulates that which it fears? At any rate, I pledge my professional reputation – But the lady has fainted! I think that Mr Kent had better be with her until she recovers from this joyous shock.’

On January 10th… The Metropolitan Railway

By Unknown (illegible) (The Illustrated London News, Issue 1181, page 692) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The trains which traverse the lines of rail beside which the body was found are those which run from west to east, some being purely Metropolitan, and some from Willesden and outlying junctions. It can be stated for certain that this young man, when he met his death, was travelling in this direction at some late hour of the night, but at what point he entered the train it is impossible to state.”

“His ticket, of course, would show that.”

“There was no ticket in his pockets.”

“No ticket! Dear me, Watson, this is really very singular. According to my experience it is not possible to reach the platform of a Metropolitan train without exhibiting one’s ticket. Presumably, then, the young man had one. Was it taken from him in order to conceal the station from which he came? It is possible. Or did he drop it in the carriage? That is also possible. But the point is of curious interest. I understand that there was no sign of robbery?” [BRUC]

The Metropolitan Railway opened its first line to the public on January 10, 1863 (just after Holmes’s own 9th birthday, per Baring-Gould). Of course, by the time we join Holmes and Watson in London, the Underground is already well-established.

My friend rose lazily from his armchair and stood with his hands in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. It was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell. The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer passengers than usual. Indeed, from the direction of the Metropolitan Station no one was coming save the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct had drawn my attention. [BERY]

[Hat-tip to Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney and their fantastic book, A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes.]

On January 8th…

Chalk pit off Silkstead Lane near Silkstead Manor Farm. Photo by Pierre Terre [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

January 8, 1885: Joseph Openshaw was killed by a fall into a chalk pit. [FIVE]

On the third day after the coming of the letter my father went from home to visit an old friend of his, Major Freebody, who is in command of one of the forts upon Portsdown Hill. I was glad that he should go, for it seemed to me that he was further from danger when he was away from home. In that, however, I was in error. Upon the second day of his absence I received a telegram from the Major, imploring me to come at once. My father had fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in the neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull. I hurried to him, but he passed away without having ever recovered his consciousness. He had, as it appears, been returning from Fareham in the twilight, and as the country was unknown to him, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no hesitation in bringing in a verdict of “Death from accidental causes”. Carefully as I examined every fact connected with his death, I was unable to find anything which could suggest the idea of murder. There were no signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no record of strangers having been seen upon the roads. And yet I need not tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was well-nigh certain that some foul plot had been woven round him.

January 8, 1888 (or maybe 1889): Jack Douglas confessed to killing Ted Baldwin. [VALL]

I was on my guard all that next day and never went out into the park. It’s as well, or he’d have had the drop on me with that buck-shot gun of his before ever I could draw on him. After the bridge was up – my mind was always more restful when that bridge was up in the evenings – I put the thing clear out of my head. I never figured on his getting into the house and waiting for me. But when I made my round in my dressing-gown, as my habit was, I had no sooner entered the study than I scented danger. I guess when a man has had dangers in his life – and I’ve had more than most in my time – there is a kind of sixth sense that waves the red flag. I saw the signal clear enough, and yet I couldn’t tell you why. Next instant I spotted a boot under the window curtain, and then I saw why plain enough.

Illustration by Frank Wiles for The Strand Magazine, (January, 1915)

I’d just the one candle that was in my hand, but there was a good light from the hall lamp through the open door. I put down the candle and jumped for a hammer that I’d left on the mantel. At the same moment he sprang at me. I saw the glint of a knife and I lashed at him with the hammer. I got him somewhere, for the knife tinkled down on the floor. He dodged round the table as quick as an eel, and a moment later he’d got his gun from under his coat. I heard him cock it, but I had got hold of it before he could fire. I had it by the barrel, and we wrestled for it all ends up for a minute or more. It was death to the man that lost his grip. He never lost his grip, but he got it butt downwards for a moment too long. Maybe it was I that pulled the trigger. Maybe we just jolted it off between us. Anyhow, he got both barrels in the face, and there I was, staring down at all that was left of Ted Baldwin.

A Mystery Tid Bit Answer

Robert Perret (JHWS “Sampson”) writes in response to our Mystery Tid Bit Post:

I can only find the USH citation online, and a brief wiki mention of Calabash. It appears to be neither the first nor the last Sherlockian writing from Asimov and I don’t have anything else to go on, so submitted as is for partial credit, I guess?​

C13593. Asimov, Isaac. “Those Endearing Old Charms,” Calabash, No. 1 (March 1982), 13.
“Let me tell you of all those endearing old charms / That we’ve loved and enjoyed so for years, / Will stay constant despite Moriarty’s alarms / For while Holmes is alive we’ve no fears…”

Chips answers: Asimov’s song is based on “Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms“, a popular song written in 1808 by Irish poet Thomas Moore using a traditional Irish air.

In the comments to that post, Roger Johnson (JHWS “Count”) correctly identified the piece, writing:

Asimov, a very accomplished versifier, here writes a variant on Thomas Moore’s 1808 poem:

I.
BELIEVE me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts, fading away!
Thou wouldst still be ador’d as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will;
And, around the dear ruin, each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still!

II.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofan’d by a tear,
That the fervour and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear!
Oh! the heart, that has truly lov’d, never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sun-flower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turn’d when he rose!

Asimov followed the example of 1946 James Montgomery’s “Irregular Song”, written in the mid-1940s:

I
Believe me, if all those endearing old yarns
Which we cherish so fondly today
Were to vanish ‘neath Boscombe’s or Hurlstone’s dark tarns,
Like fairy gifts fading away,
There would still be those papers well guarded by Cox,
Watson-data as yet unrevealed,
And the records contained in that battered old box
New Conanical treasure would yield.

II
Oh dear Sherlock, to share thy adventures we long,
As you crush London’s crime under heel,
And we sing in thy praise an Irregular Song,
Though it ne’er can express all we feel.
Let grim warfare and pestilence rage as they can,
You will still give long hours of joy
To the boy who, adoring, is now half a man –
Or the man who is yet half a boy.

Moore’s poem became famous when set to a traditional Irish tune, and Montgomery applied his fine tenor voice to singing his own words to that same tune. I’m not aware that Isaac Asimov regaled the BSI with a musical rendition of “Those Endearing Old Charms” – but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Richard Olken (JHWS “Palmer”) added:

The tune is also that of Harvard’s anthem, Fair Harvard

I
Fair Harvard! we join in thy Jubilee throng,
And with blessings surrender thee o’er
By these Festival-rites, from the Age that is past,
To the Age that is waiting before.
O Relic and Type of our ancestors’ worth,
That hast long kept their memory warm,
First flow’r of their wilderness! Star of their night!
Calm rising thro’ change and thro’ storm.

II
Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!
To thy children the lesson still give,
With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,
And for Right ever bravely to live.
Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,
As the world on Truth’s current glides by,
Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,
Till the stock of the Puritans die.
Samuel Gilman, Class of 1811

Asimov did sing to the tune of O Danny Boy, as noted in the March, 1984 issue of the Baker Street Journal (Vol 34, #1, Page 7)

O, SHERLOCK HOLMES
by Isaac Asimov
(Sung to the tune of “Danny Boy)

O, Sherlock Holmes, the Baker Street Irregulars
Are gathered here to honour you today,
For in their hearts, you glitter like a thousand stars
And like the stars, you’ll never pass away.
This year that’s new, must tick away its months and die,
For Father Time moves on remorselessly,
But even he can’t tarnish, as he passes by,
O, Sherlock Holmes, O, Holmes, your immortality.

O, Sherlock Holmes, the world is filled with evil still
And Moriarty rages everywhere.
The terror waits to strike and by the billions kill.
The mushroom cloud is more than we can bear.
But still there’s hope in what you’ve come to symbolise,
In that great principle you’ve made us see.
We may yet live if only we can improvise,
O, Sherlock Holmes, O, Holmes, your rationality.

On January 2nd…

January 2, 1881: Watson moved into 221B Baker Street. [STUD]

We met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bedrooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon the spot, and we at once entered into possession. That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes and portmanteaus.

On January 1st… The Beginning

On January 1, 1881, Dr John H Watson, recently returned to London and living in “a private hotel in the Strand,” realized he had been “spending such money as [he] had, considerably more freely than [he] ought.” He decided “to leave the hotel, and to take up [his] quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.”

At the Criterion Bar, he was surprised by an old acquaintance, young Stamford, who just happened to know of another young man in search of someone with whom to share the expense of living in London. And so off to Barts they went….

Illustration by George Hutchinson (1891)

There was only one student in the room, who was bending over a distant table absorbed in his work. At the sound of our steps he glanced round and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. ‘I’ve found it! I’ve found it,’ he shouted to my companion, running towards us with a test-tube in his hand. ‘I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by haemoglobin, and by nothing else.’ Had he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could not have shone upon his features.

‘Dr Watson, Mr Sherlock Holmes,’ said Stamford, introducing us.

‘How are you?’ he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’

A very happy new year, dear Watsonians!

A Portrait of Basil

Sometimes, being on the Internet leads to the odd serendipitous occurrence. Chips came across this beautiful sketch of Basil of Baker Street, but we had no way of identifying the artist. [And I tried every search I could think of! -Selena Buttons] Then, the very same sketch appeared on our Twitter timeline, posted by BakerStreetCrow (JHWS “Corvus”), with a link to the artist’s Tumblr post! And so we are happy to share this lovely art and to be able to attribute it to K.M. Hardy (scarvenartist)! (We’d also love to see a Dawson to accompany this Basil, because we love David Q Dawson.)

Basil of Baker Street, as drawn by K.M. Hardy (scarvenartist)

A Christmas Wish for Our Group

Chips writes: Selena and all my JHWS friends, please accept this as my Christmas wishes for all of you to have a blessed and holy Holiday season. I will be off line for a while and hopefully will be back with you again. All my Thanks for your friendships and my best wishes for you and yours.

[My best wishes to you, Chips, and to you, dear readers. –Selena Buttons]

Tid Bit from a Special Story

This excerpt and picture appeared in the Norwegian Explorers group on Facebook recently. [Reposted from I Hear of Sherlock, so hat-tip to Burt & Scott! -Selena]

Chips writes: These are the word pictures that I fell totally and completely into the world of 1895 and all that followed after.
-Ron, aka the Game is and will forever be Afoot until I cross the Terrace.

“It was a September evening, and not yet seven o’clock, but the day had been a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city. Mud colored clouds drooped sadly over the muddy streets. Down the Strand the lamps were but misty splotches of diffused light which threw a feeble circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement. The yellow glare from the shop-windows streamed out into the steamy, vaporous air, and threw a murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There was, to my mind, something eerie and ghost-like in the endless procession of faces which flitted across these narrow bars of light,—sad faces and glad, haggard and merry. Like all human kind, they flitted from the gloom into the light, and so back into the gloom once more. I am not subject to impressions, but the dull, heavy evening, with the strange business upon which we were engaged, combined to make me nervous and depressed.” —The Sign of Four